Economic Partnership Agreement Members

The first comprehensive regional EPA is the Cariforum, which was closed at the end of 2007. Other countries or regions in Africa and the Pacific of Africa and the Pacific have interim agreements that serve as the basis for comprehensive regional EPAs being negotiated. Free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement provide for duty-free trade in goods and services between nations and the removal of other trade barriers. Economic partnership agreements contain the same provisions as a free trade agreement, but go beyond free trade agreements. In addition to free trade, the EPAs provide for the free movement of people and include provisions relating to public procurement, international competition and cooperation, customs procedures and international dispute resolution. Negotiations on economic partnership agreements can take years to conclude. The agreements address a detailed set of issues that all need to be balanced in order to bring benefits to all parties. An agreement may be less difficult to reach between nations with a strong history of trade and cooperation, as was the case with the economic partnership agreements signed in 2007 by the European Union and the Asia-Caribbean and Pacific group. EPAs are trade instruments that replace the unilateral trade regime that has governed trade relations between the EU and ACP countries for nearly forty years. The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), established in 2000, was the last to grant unilateral preferences to ACP countries.

Indeed, this unilateral trade regime was seen as a violation of a fundamental principle of the World Trade Organization (WTO), since it gave more favourable treatment only to ACP countries and not to other developing countries, WTO members. The overall goal of EPAs is to contribute, through trade, to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in ACP countries. Economic partnership agreements are intense alliances signed by two or more countries that provide for reciprocal economic integration and participation. The agreements proved very popular around the world at the beginning of the 21st century, with the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific united to survive and compete in a turbulent international economic context. The Economic Partnership Agreements are a system for creating a free trade area between the European Union and the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP).